Are there any issues more divisive in “Western” political discourse than the existence, history and policies of the modern nation-state of Israel? Outside of the United States and a few other countries nothing seems to divide people as much as discussing the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian struggle, with majority opinion very much aligning on the side of the latter (at least in recent years). Since it’s disastrous misadventures in the Lebanon and the First Intifada in the 1980s, the so-called Jewish State has been on a downward spiral into the sort of collective religio-nationalist irrationalism that one formerly associated with some of its regional neighbours. Progressive strands in the American-backed territory have been sidelined or subsumed by their conservative opponents so that even nominally Left mainstream voices bear little relation to their political antecedents of the 1940s, ’50s and 1960s. Contemporary society in Israel can with a fair degree of equanimity embrace figures expressing avowedly sectarian, racist or authoritarian views, up to and and including those in positions of authority. In that at least the Jewish State bears some resemblance to sections of the domestic culture of its superpower sponsor, though as we have seen in recent years – and days – even that is undergoing a generational change for the better.
Such things make it incredibly difficult for liberal-minded individuals in sympathy with Israel to express their support for the Middle Eastern nation, let alone defend it. As the Jewish State of the late 20th century has wilfully become a Pariah State of the early 21st century it has cast aside any residual leftish glamour it may have once (perhaps questionably) possessed. While in the closed bubble of Washington-Jerusalem relations vociferous criticism may be rare – despite the oh-so tentative concerns of the Obama White House – for the rest of the world being antipathetic to Israel has increasingly become the norm of popular culture. One could no more be unquestionably effusive about Israel than one could be of Putin’s Russia.
Max Blumenthal, author of “The 51 Day War: Ruin and Resistance in Gaza”, in a Q&A with Salon on what may be the guiding determinant in Israel’s dealings with the Palestinian people, and those inhabiting the Gaza Strip in particular:
“Arnon Soffer is a chief adviser on demographic engineering — i.e., how to forcibly engineer a Jewish majority in areas under Israeli control — to successive Israeli governments. He conceived of not only the unilateral disengagement from Gaza, but also the separation wall. In each case, he said that they wouldn’t lead to greater national security for Israel, but they would lead to the maintenance of a Jewish [demographic] majority. He’s obsessed with maintaining a threshold of 70 percent. His last name, Soffer, means “counter” in Hebrew; so his colleagues at Haifa University refer to him as “Arnon, the Arab Counter.”
Listen to his words. As he was explaining the need for the unilateral disengagement from Gaza, he said, “When 2.5 million people live in a closed off Gaza, it’s going to be a human catastrophe. These people will be even bigger animals than they are today, with the aid of an insane, fundamentalist Islam. Pressure at the border will be awful; it’s going to be a terrible war. If we want to remain alive, we will have to kill and kill and kill. All day, every day.”
He said that to the Jerusalem Post — and this is when he was a close adviser to Sharon. Sharon credited Soffer with convincing him to disengage [from the Gaza Strip]. It was printed in Israel, but not in the U.S.. I don’t endorse Soffer’s racist language or ideology, but what he said has come true. What we saw last summer with Operation Protective Edge was the fulfillment of his bloody prophecy: “kill, and kill, and kill every day.” That is what the Israeli army did for 51 days.”
And no doubt will continue to do so again until the goal of the Israeli “deep state” is reached:
“The war was an extension of an ongoing campaign to destroy the Palestinian national movement. It’s what the Israeli sociologist Barruch Kimmerling called “politicide,” which is the destruction of an entire political identity. He’s extrapolating out of the term “genocide,” which is the destruction of an entire people. I think it’s a really accurate distillation of the long-term Israeli strategy.”
Unfortunately, and reluctantly, so do I.